Andrea Blaugrund Nevins is writer and director of “The Other F Word,” a documentary in theaters now, that explores how punk’s ultimate anti-authoritarians become the ultimate authority, fathers.
Growing up in New York City, in the heyday of CBGBs, I used to cross the street to avoid punk rockers. It wasn’t only the metal and follicular spikes that scared me, they exuded something very raw and angry. And I was likely an unappealing stereotype to them: a plaid-uniformed product of an all-girls’ school, my Tretorns maybe a bit too clean. Better to keep a safe distance.
Until I gave birth to one. My third child was still a toddler when it became clear he was the punker his older siblings weren’t. If they said something that even slightly smacked of pandering to his diminutive size or age, he’d look them right in the eye and tear up the artwork they’d just brought home. He took no prisoners.
The usual consequences for unruly behavior didn’t work on him either. He had no vested interest in television or videos, candy or dessert, so bribes and deprivations held no value. If I took away his magnetic tiles, he’d build with sticks and rocks in the yard. Time outs elicited spiteful room reorganizing that resulted in shredded bedding and books, and a sly smile when he opened the door quietly.
He walked out on Mommy and Me where other kids would clap and sing in unison. He couldn’t stand mandatory afternoon naps at pre-school, begged me to pick him up, “After snack?”
But, there was one class he liked. It was taught by Liz Memel, who ascribed to the RIE philosophy. She required her students do what they wanted to do (safely, obviously), and that we parents watch without intervening or commenting. If my son pushed a kid aside to get a block, so be it. If another kid grabbed the block away from him, there it was. They would work it out.
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